The one about... Handling Anxiety

Tamsin Caine talks to Susan Leigh about how to handle anxiety whilst you are negotiating with your ex, either in mediation, directly or with a financial neutral.

You can contact Tamsin at or book a free initial chat at

You can contact Susan at or visit her website at


(The transcript was created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the smart divorce podcast. I'm Tamsin Caine and I will be your host. In series three, we will be speaking to a number of experts and professionals in the divorce arena, and answering the questions that we get asked most often. If you've got a question and you don't think we've answered it yet, please do get in touch, you can email me at Tamsin at smart Now over to our guests. Hello, I'm delighted to be joined today by Susan Lee. Susan is a fabulous counsellor and hypnotherapist she works with couples and individuals and amongst other areas who are going through a breakdown of relationships. Hi, Susan, how you doing?

Susan Leigh 0:57
I'm good, thank you comes in.

Tamsin Caine 0:59
Fabulous. So we're going to talk today about the anxiety that you might feel during negotiating with your ex spouse, and some ideas of how to deal with that. So we see a lot of couples going through mediation. And I certainly work with a lot of couples who are wanting to come to a financial agreement between themselves rather than going to court. But that has its own difficulties, I guess you would say so. So what would you What would you start off by saying what's your initial thoughts?

Susan Leigh 1:38
I would start off by saying acknowledge there is a tense time even if you're not in a court scenario, even if you're going to a mediators office or a neutral professionals office, accept that it is a bit of a stressful time you're meeting somebody who you used to love, you built a life together. But now you're in disharmony. And it's perhaps been that there's been a lot of nasty things said difficult things said it could have been a very testing time. Not every break it means is, is is a pleasant enough negotiation, it can be quite stressful, where there's almost point scoring going on, or somebody is trying to get one over or they're not having that I'm going to keep this. So it can be I mean, I've known people even haggle over things like old ad No, record collections and things since an order bumps and it's that's mine, and that's not yours, and you're not having it simply because they know how much it means to the other person, I had one couple, and he went and euthanize the dogs, because he was determined that she wasn't going to have them. So you know, it can be heartbreaking heartbreaking as a therapist to hear it. But heartbreaking for the couple when they're going through this and that level of venom and nastiness and undercurrent is going through. So appreciate that it is potentially quite a stressful time wherever you go, wherever you're meeting them, and try and get yourself into a calm place. Before you enter the room. Try and get yourself thinking clearly, what do I want from this meeting today? Have it even written down in front of you where you say, this is these are my definites these are my negotiations. And these are the things that are prepared to let go of have some idea where you stand on what you particularly need, if children involved have a clear set of criteria that import for the kids where they're gonna live, transport access, all those things might be really on negotiable for you. So be clear about what it is that you're needing what you're wanting and, and have that in your mind at the outset.

Tamsin Caine 3:49
Yeah, I think that's really good advice. I think writing down some non negotiables and, and having an idea the things that that you are willing to move on. Because the thing you're going to have to move you know this it's called negotiation for a reason. It's it's not to go in there, make your demands. And that's what you'll learn. You'll come out with you were talking there about going into the into the meeting in a in a calm frame of mind. And I think I think that's really good advice if you've got any tips on how to get yourself because if you're all pent up and worried about this meeting with this person that you had a life with, that it can be really difficult to be calm.

Susan Leigh 4:34
For sure. And I think I think there are the looking after yourself is the big clue and the big coping strategy when you take care of yourself so maybe have other things that you do. What do you know that you can do that makes you calm before you go for an interview that makes you calm before you go on? When you went on a first date or when you went to college or something? What were the things that you did? So I think sometimes feeling good about yourself is a biggie, make Tron, make sure you have a good night's sleep the night before. So that means that being careful about whether you've had a drink or whether you're exercised or whether you feel good, sometimes having lost a few pounds in terms of a bit can make us feel really good. And so you go into that meeting, and you're actually thinking, you know, I look okay here. And that can be a really good starting point for feeling calm and good about yourself. Make sure that you're smart, make sure that you feel positive, have a clear set of your own criteria, things that are important for you. And not being phased. I mean, you look at this person, and you remember, we used to love each other, we cared about each other. So try and hold on to some semblance of that. Because if the other person is angry or bitter towards you, where do you think that's coming from? And so sometimes they're reacting not necessarily about you, but at reacting at the situation that they're in reacting at the financial implications of this reacting at their lifestyle? things? What's it done to their work situation, or the structure of the life they were planning on having? Sometimes all those angry feelings are because of what's actually going on? for them and how they are reacting to this particular situation to?

Tamsin Caine 6:18
Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. And I think a lot of people who are going to put themselves in a mediation position, they, they are thinking about how they felt about the other person at some point, but but the whole mediation, that being with another professional, that kind of brings all this pent up anxiety back and, and can can make them although they want a fair outcome can make them feel sort of frustrated and angry again, in an in an, in a negotiation, that's not necessarily an ideal position to be in when you go into into that sorts of meeting.

Susan Leigh 7:01
And I think going into a meeting like that, there's also perhaps an expectation or you feel, there's an expectation that everything's got to be resolved, whether in a short space of time, or you're aware of the cost of the meeting, you're aware of what's going on about racking up bills or adding another month or two to that being finalised. So that can be pressure there. But I think one thing to hold on to, in any negotiation is, I don't have to agree to things that I don't want to agree to. So buying yourself a little bit of time, if somebody says, Is this okay for you, and you're really not sure, hold on to that. Hang on, leave it with me, I want to think about that I'll get back to be confident in of hold on to your own determination, not just to go with the flow, because everybody's looking at you and you feel this pressure to agree, be okay about saying, I need a bit of time to get some other advice or to reflect on this for a minute or to see how I feel because we can initially have a knee jerk reaction or For God's sake, I'm fed up, let's just say yes and get on with it. I don't care. I'm beyond all this. But it's it's raining it back in and being prepared to say, leave it with me, I'm going to buy myself a little bit of time, I'm not just going to go with this because you think it's a good idea. And I'm not saying that just to be awkward, I just really need to check out for myself how I feel about this, how it's going to impact on any plans that I might have, or any thing I'm thinking about doing for my own future, or perhaps for the children too. So being prepared to stand your ground a little bit with fairly neutral phrases like that. So it's not being acrimonious. It's not swearing or getting upset. It's keeping that calm thing, because the truth is, if a person loses it, that phrase says it all. If we lose it, we're losing control. If we're losing it, we're losing a grip. So again, coming back to your centre, coming back to feeling a bit more grounded and going, I'm not losing it. I'm not giving away my power, I'm going to hold on to what's right for me. And that might take me a day or two to think about it. But I will come back to you with my resolve or my decision in 24 hours or whatever it is that you feel will be okay for you. Yeah,

Tamsin Caine 9:22
I think that's absolutely right. I think rushing making decisions about your divorce is gonna lead to problems later on. I think everything needs to be carefully considered in an a ninja reaction probably isn't going to be the right reaction either. And something else that I was thinking when you were talking was that if you feel yourself losing it in that meeting, just asked to step out of the meeting, even if it's only for five or 10 minutes where you re gather your calmness where you you kind of take a deep breath, you know, even a breath of fresh air Outside the front door of the office would give you that time to just stop losing it as you as you very carefully sat down that said, that's a great reminder of

Susan Leigh 10:11
what I mean, that's where cigarettes come into the road, even though a lot of us don't smoke anymore, you know, but in truth, you know, that cigarette break, I just need to, I just need to go outside for a fag or something. That was whether it was an actual action or not, it gave people thinking time. And because without is one of them. I mean, I hate smoking. But at the end of the day, having a cigarette break or a timeout is a really valuable thing to do. And as you were saying there, the truth is, if we agree to things that we really don't feel right about, that can impact on further decisions down the line. Because if a person has agreed to things because they felt under pressure, or of whatever kind, it might be that they then start thinking, you know, yes, they agree to it, yes, they gave it away, or they allowed that decision to go ahead. But then they can start feeling bitter or resentful, or it's not fair, or I've been treated badly, or look what they've done to me. And it can fuel further antagonism that may come out in the relationship down the line. And if you have to meet intermittently, that's going to be unfortunate. So being sure that yes, you've agreed to something you've made, I've given you this, you've had that, and you feel fairly dealt with. At the end of the day, you have to kind of go, Okay, I allowed this to happen, but you don't want to be allowing something to happen and feeling angry, or bitter or done over by by what's happened.

Tamsin Caine 11:39
Yeah. And I think you're absolutely right. And I think it those points, when you get to if you get to a point where you cannot agree, and you can't come to a fair conclusion, then potentially, you need to be looking at letting a court decide what you want to do. But if whilst you're in these negotiations, whilst you're in a position where you can talk to the other person and, and try and come up with some sort of agreement. And yeah, I think you're absolutely right, I think, don't agree to what you really don't want to agree to but bear in mind, there's going to be needed to be some compromise somewhere along the line, you're not necessarily going to get absolutely everything that you want.

Susan Leigh 12:20
And holding it at the back of your mind that if if I don't thought myself out, Vidal come to some compromise with this with myself, know that I can't keep everything that I'm going to have to make some sort of sacrifices or allowances for the other person and what they want. If If, if we don't do that, and some judges going to rock up and make those decisions. It's almost like a is it Samson's baby where whoever it was in the in the Bible where he was going to chop the baby in half. And so you end up with nobody gaining anything, nobody coming away with very much that feels good. But having those decisions made on our behalf where nobody gets what they want, and everybody goes away feeling. Okay, it's a bit of an arbitrary decision, but it and it happened. But at least somebody else has taken that decision. It's far better to be in control yourself, and to say, okay, and negotiation is about letting the other person think that you've made a sacrifice, perhaps, and given them what they want. And then they're more inclined to let you have what you want yourself. So being a bit more savvy about the role of what's happening in these meetings, being a bit more savvy about what you're actually negotiating about, and being prepared to give perhaps a little bit of leeway on things. You're not that 100% bothered about. Knowing that you may well get some ground in other areas with things that matter more to you.

Tamsin Caine 13:45
Yeah, I think that's fantastic advice. Susan, as always, thank you so much for your brilliant advice, and we'll catch up again soon.

Susan Leigh 13:54
My pleasure. Thank you.

Tamsin Caine 13:59
I hope you enjoyed today's podcast. If you did, please do think about writing us a review or giving us a lovely five star rating on iTunes, if that's where you're listening. hope you'll join us again next time.


Latest insights and articles